In a year of sequels, the one Pixar movie that no-one asked for dropped into theatres this past weekend with little fanfare and a reportedly lower-than-expected box office performance. Nearly 25 years after the celebrated original, and nine years after Toy Story 3 gave us a perfectly realized closure to the franchise, is there any more story left to tell?
And if there is, should you take your kids to see it?
As parents and film fans, we want to share the best of the cinematic world with our kids. But when you haven’t seen a new movie yet, how do you know if you should take your kids? Obviously every kid is different, and they change with age; the same child who had to be escorted, weeping, out of Guardians of the Galaxy might completely fall in love with Deadpool two years later (true story). But it’s also true that movie marketing can be misleading – no-one wants to be that mom who had to leave Pan’s Labyrinth with an emotionally-scarred 10-year-old. With this ongoing feature, we’ll aim to offer some loose, spoiler-free, age-by-age guidelines as to what parents might expect from new features marketed to families, so you can make the best judgment call for your youngsters.
I’m going to take a hard left turn from the usual drift of these reviews and tell you truthfully: no. You don’t need to take your kids to see this.
Stay with me! I have reasons.
This feels like the first Pixar movie that’s really, truly made for adults. For one thing, the kids who grew up with these characters and connected to them at a young and impressionable age are likely in their 30s now. This movie is going to resonate the most with the leading-edge Millennials who have followed Woody, Buzz, and the gang from the beginning.
Ultimately, the appeal of Pixar movies has always rested on two factors: the sophistication of the animation, and the emotional themes. Toy Story 4 nails both; the animation is incredible, to the point where there were scenes that I actually believed could be real-life footage mixed in with animation. The rendering of minute elements like water and fur is remarkably finely detailed, at a level that only adult eyes will fully appreciate.
Pixar has also outdone themselves with the emotional resonance of this film. They’re exploring some very sophisticated themes here: existential anxiety, suicidal ideation, the nature of identity and the self. (When Forky screams “I’m TRAAAAASH!!” and tries to throw himself into the garbage, I felt SEEN.) The level of psychological meaning that’s being unpacked in Toy Story 4 is going to be appreciated by adults in a way that most children won’t be able to grasp.
So, should you take your kids to see it?
I mean, sure, you can, there’s nothing about this movie that kids won’t like; I just don’t think they’ll get as much out of it as adults will, unless you’ve watched the previous three movies with them and they’ve developed a strong connection to the characters.
Tweens and Teens
Likewise. Older teens might connect to the deeper emotional themes, but unless they’re already attached to the core characters they might not.
Honestly? Leave the kids at home and go see this movie. Bring tissues!
Wee Time: Go during the trailers. It’s a pretty tight 1:45, and I really can’t pinpoint a good opportunity to run to the bathroom without missing some key development or exposition. Yet another reason I suspect this movie truly isn’t aimed at little kids.
Bottom Line: See it on a big screen to fully appreciate the amazing work of the animators, and be prepared to have your heartstrings yanked. And stay until the very end of the credits!
Jenny Bullough is a movie fan and mom based in Toronto. She has missed the middle 5 minutes of every kids’ movie because of her kid’s small bladder, and she let her kids watch Deadpool at an inappropriately young age and stands by her choices.